Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Popcorn and Chicken Feet

Someone burned a bag of microwave popcorn at work today. The acrid smell of charred popcorn kernels filled the air, giving me an almost instant headache. On the positive side, it reminded me of an incident that took place when I was in school. My older sister was doing a science project that involved dissecting a chicken, identifying all the internal organs, and reconstructing the actual skeleton of the chicken to display along side the labeled jars of “innards” for the class.

She laboriously cooked the chicken in a large stock pot and meticulously removed all the meat, fat, skin, and ligaments. Then she ran string through the bones to reconstruct the skeleton. It was a thing of beauty, except it had no feet. Chicken feet are covered in a thick cartilage. Removing the cartilage is not an easy task, and requires an extremely lengthy cooking time to loosen. Since we had to be in school all day, Mom agreed to cook the chicken feet while we were away.

The main entrance to the house was a large foyer that housed, behind a tall divider, the laundry and a small stove used for canning. The foyer sat between the dining room in the old section of the house and the living room that was in the newer addition my father had built. Not wanting to take up kitchen stove space she needed to prepare dinner, Mom put the chicken feet in the stock pot, filled it with water, put the pot on the canning stove in the foyer, and then went about her daily chores.

Unfortunately, her chores took her upstairs for several hours and she just plain forgot about the simmering chicken feet. Needless to say, after hours of boiling, the water evaporated and the chicken feet began to burn. By the time she realized what was happening, the smoke and smell from the burned chicken feet filled the lower area of the house. Frantically, she raced downstairs and took the burned pot of chicken feet outside to smolder, then opened all the windows and doors to evacuate the smoke and odor.

The smoke soon dissipated, but the odor of burned chicken feet lingered for days! To add insult to injury, we had to get a second chicken and go through the cooking process again to get unburned chicken feet my sister could use in her skeletal reconstruction

It wasn’t particularly easy to live with the smell at the time, but the thought of that incident makes me roar with laughter.

So the next time you burn the popcorn in the microwave, just remember that it could have been chicken feet, which I can truthfully say smell much, much worse!